I’ve now run two playtest games of Adventures of the Space Patrol, and I’m now getting a much better idea of what I need to do to improve it. It’s the kind of game that somewhat depends on how the people playing handle things, and it’s the kind that isn’t likely to fly apart and become a big, interesting mess, so it took a while to really figure out where to go.
Stuff With Aspects
It will come as no surprise to anyone who’s played FATE before that making aspects and compels work properly is absolutely vital, and it’s a big part of why the first playtest was flatter than the second (though the fact that for me and one of the players our Skype session was very early in the morning was a factor too). I had been using compels mainly to represent characters doing something disadvantageous, but that’s actually severely limiting their scope. Compelling an aspect can also include stuff that will change the situation in a way that’s disadvantageous to the PCs, and for me at least it’s much easier and more interesting to come up with those kinds of compels.
I’m planning to go through and revise the characters’ aspects, with two things in mind. First, each character should have an aspect that’s clearly good for compelling. Second, each character should have an aspect that’s clearly about getting closer to others. Jono’s portrayal of Katrina, the Venusian Cat Princess was terrible and awesome, but I found she was a little more selfish than I really want characters to be for the same. However, changing her “Time to play!” aspect into “Play with me!” could make a huge difference.
Jono and his friends are also into Primetime Adventures, and were actually in the habit of shouting “Fan Mail!” whenever someone did something they thought was neat (sometimes even when not gaming!). I’ve always found these kinds of reward mechanics to be a really powerful tool (Yuuyake Koyake has Dreams, and Peerless Food Fighters has Applause Tokens, and both work really well), so I’ve decided to try implementing something similar in Space Patrol in the form of “Fusion Points” that players can award to one another during the game. I love the atmosphere of creativity and improvisation they brought, and I’ve found that these kinds of mechanics help foster that. I’m also contemplating letting players use Fusion Points to do compels on other players.
More or less by accident, I stumbled on some stuff to improve the conflict rules. In the game I’ve simplified conflicts to basically being an effort to succeed at opposed rolls to give the opposition three temporary aspects before they do the same to you, and in the second playtest I did a conflict that was the PCs in a rocketship vs. a crazy volcanic moon. Reducing the sides to two active characters (with others lending a hand) and allowing characters to impose aspects on the other overall side worked really well. I need to sit down and refine this, but it goes a long way towards fixing the issues I saw with the conflict rules, while making non-violent conflicts that much easier. Also, turning a volcanic planet into a “character” was really neat all around.
On the whole I’m really happy with how the game it turning out. I think I’ve managed to keep the bits of FATE that I really want and do some fairly novel things with the rules elsewhere. I’m grateful to Dan (whose Final Hour of a Storied Age needs work but is really neat), Peter, Jono, Sushu (whose Jiang Hu game has a ton of potential), and Aaron (who was awesome to do playtesting with) for lending a hand with my insanity.